Sunday, May 12, 2013

2013 Farm Bill's Threat to Open Access

I was reading the Senate's version of the 2013 Farm Bill which is scheduled for  markup this week. Where there is a lot not to like in the bill, it contained one particularly disturbing provision, the use of $100 million of taxpayer's money to create the non-profit Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research.  The purpose of the Foundation is to solicit private funding for agricultural research, and to match it with taxpayer dollars. The bill states very clearly that  "The Foundation shall not be an agency or instrumentality of the United States Government." 

On the surface this seems like a good thing. If industry is going to benefit financially from publicly  supported research then it makes sense that they have some skin in the game. But here is what caught my attention and raised my ire: 
  1. INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY.—The Board shall adopt written standards to govern ownership of any intellectual property rights derived from the collaborative efforts of the Foundation. 
In other words, the Board, which is not an entity of the U.S. government, will determine the intellectual property provisions for the research funded by U.S. taxpayers. This is incredibly disturbing, and a clear end-run to the public's demand for open-access to science research. Just when it appears that open-access will become the law of the land we have a proposal in the Farm Bill to circumvent that access.

The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act of 2013 will require Federal agencies with research expenditures over $100 million to create publicly available repositories of journal articles.  It is basically an extension to all Federal agencies of the National Institute of Health's open-access provisions mandating that the public have access to the results of the research they funded. 

If the people pay for the research, even part of the research, the results belong in the public domain. It's that simple. This language in the Farm Bill is just wrong. It needs to be changed to make sure that the public's intellectual property is not given away and locked-up forever. Write or call your Senators! 


Kevin Gamble said...

The Senate doubled the amount of money to be put into this new Foundation when they passed the bill. The new amount of taxpayer dollars is $200m. Once it is created, it's your best guess how much money will get funneled into this new entity.

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